35 Minute Meals, About $1 Per Serving - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 04-30-2009, 08:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So lately, this forum has been all about food and groceries. I've gotten a lot of feedback about the small grocery budget we live within ($350/mo), and I've tried to explain that we do a lot of scratch cooking. Now, I SAH, but I'm afraid that I've given people the impression that all we do is cook. So for the past couple of days, I've been keeping track of how long it takes me to make dinner.

Two days in a row, it's been about 35 minutes for scratch meals. That seems like a reasonable amount of time to me, so I thought I'd share here.

On our last baking day, we made six 12oz balls of pie crust. One of these I did not freeze. Yesterday morning, DD and I ate cereal for breakfast, and I spent about 15-20 minutes making yogurt and rolling out a pie crust. Later, when it was time to put the yogurt in jars, I stuck the crust in the oven to par bake. This took another 5 minutes or so. Taking the crust out when the time dings took less than a minute.

At dinner time, I broke six eggs and shredded about a cup and half of cheddar cheese. I chopped then sauteed onions and mushrooms in balsamic vinegar, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, butter and EVO. I mixed the veggies in with the eggs, about 2/3 of the cheese, and about 1/2 cup of heavy cream, and added pepper, marjoram, and nutmeg. I poured this in the pie shell and added the rest of the cheese. This took 20 minutes. I did the whole day's worth of dishes-we don't have a dishwasher, sadly- while the quiche baked (45 mins, 350), and then after dinner had only to wash silverware, three plates and the pie tin. So even though I spent around an hour in the kitchen, I would say that only about 35 minutes of it was directly dinner related.

Then, tonight, we had falafel sandwiches. Had I planned ahead properly, I would have drained yogurt last night, but I forgot. I just used regular yogurt, and that worked fine, but Greek style would have been better.

At lunch time, I mixed up tortilla mix (we had tortilla stuff but no pitas done ahead) and falafel mix, and let them sit covered in the fridge. This took 5-7 minutes. When we got home from our walk (4:58), I rolled out 8 tortillas, and balled up 8 falafel. I cooked the tortillas two at a time on our big skillet, and fried the falafel in hot oil in our cast iron. Then I grated half a cucumber and half a small onion, drained their juice off, added a little apple cider vinegar, pepper, dill, and about 1/4 cup of yogurt to make taziki. I sliced the rest of the cuke, sliced tomatoes, washed and tore some spinach, and opened and drained a can of black olives. We were sitting down to eat at 5:33. I still need to the dishes, but there aren't many. That will probably only take me 10 minutes, since everything is put away/wiped down.

I just wanted to indicate that we don't eat especially fancy meals most of the time, but we don't subsist on beans and rice, either. And if you plan and do a little work ahead, it really doesn't take too long.

I also wanted to share with you our cost. Now, we get WIC, so obviously there will be a higher cost for some people, but I have included that here.

10 oz flour tortilla mix @ $2.74 per four # bag= $0.40
8 oz. falafel mix @ $1.75 per #= $0.88
$3.50 for a bag of spinach, of which we used little= ~$0.75
$1 for a can of olives= $1
$1 for an organic cucumber= $1
$1 for two organic tomatoes= $1
$7 for organic flour & hormone free butter to make 6 pie crusts= $1.16 per crust
$0.25 for 1 pt. hormone free cream, 1/4 cup= $0.06
(We found a bunch of cream marked down to $0.25 a pint because we bought it on its sell-by date. We bought it all and froze it.)
$0.40 per qt homemade yogurt, 1/4 cup= $0.03
(If you had to buy the hormone free milk, your cost would soar to $1.75 per qt of yogurt, or $0.11 per quarter cup.)
$2.50 for high quality local eggs, 6= $0 b/c of WIC, or $1.25 for everyone else
$5 per pound hormone free cheese, less than 1/2 #= $0 b/c of WIC, or about $2 for everyone else

Plus maybe a $1 worth of seasonings and vinegar. So our cost for these two meals, both of which fed the three of us with enough leftovers for DD and I to eat lunch the next day, was $7.28, or $0.72 per serving.

If we didn't get WIC, our cost would go up to $10.61 for these meals, or $1.61 per serving.

(These calculations do not include the tiny cost of water or the energy costs of cooking.)

Even if we had to buy our eggs and dairy, we still would be eating quite well pretty inexpensively.

I hope this helps somebody.

Trying to turn hearts and minds toward universal healthcare, one post at a time.
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#2 of 10 Old 04-30-2009, 08:29 PM
 
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great tips

I also do these type of things when I have down time.

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#3 of 10 Old 04-30-2009, 09:00 PM
 
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Great post!

Jenn: WOHM to a big girl (7/03), a medium girl (8/07), and a little girl (12/10)
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#4 of 10 Old 04-30-2009, 10:29 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leta View Post
So lately, this forum has been all about food and groceries. I've gotten a lot of feedback about the small grocery budget we live within ($350/mo), and I've tried to explain that we do a lot of scratch cooking.
I just wanted to indicate that we don't eat especially fancy meals most of the time, but we don't subsist on beans and rice, either. And if you plan and do a little work ahead, it really doesn't take too long.
I have no idea how you can survive on that much, and I cook from scratch more than you do. I don't make my own yoghurt or cheese, but felafel come from a can of chickpeas (I know, dried are cheaper, sue me!), tortillas from flour and salt and water.

It has to be the WIC and the cost of your produce. I spend $36 a week on cheese and milk and eggs, and I couldn't push the lot down below $100 a month without serious hardship.
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#5 of 10 Old 05-01-2009, 09:05 AM
 
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Thank you for taking the time to post this.It was very thoughtful of you.

Natasha,Mum to many.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." ~ Sir Winston Churchill
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#6 of 10 Old 05-01-2009, 12:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, I'm certain WIC has a great deal to with it. We figure that we get $100 worth of food per month from WIC.

(Although, if we had to pay for it out of pocket, we would just get less cheese, cereal, and juice, and probably less milk, too, as we would mix whole with powdered for most dairy applications and drink more homemade soymilk. So the true savings is probably closer to $50-$75.)

Also, DH eats for free at work, at least one meal a day, sometimes two. So that's 5-10 meals a week, or a minimum of $10 per week, that we save. (Or, if you think of how much it would cost for him to eat out, that's $7 per meal, so $70-$140 per week. Yeow.)

IDK what produce prices are in the rest of the country, but here, right now, they are HIGH. Our garden is dormant right now, none of the farmer's markets have kicked off yet, and the non-organic produce is pretty much disgusting. Even the organic stuff is kinda cardboard. In a couple months, I'll be able to buy a peck basket full of organic tomatoes for a couple bucks, and pick almost free cukes out of the garden, so it makes me roll my eyes to spend $2 on three items for one meal.

I used to use canned chickpeas to make falafel, but then we started buying the mix from our restaurant owning friends. They make it themselves, on site, they have the equipment to grind dried chickpeas and fava beans into a powder. Then they season it. This is cheaper for us than doing it ourselves from canned beans, and doing it from dry (truly dry, not soaked first) beans is impossible unless you have heavy duty grinding equipment. Plus, they get organic dry beans, which are tough for us to find.

I know my situation doesn't apply to everybody, but lately I've been feeling like people have this impression of me that I spend all day misting cheese mold and grinding wheat, and, truly, I don't. I'm 35 weeks pregnant right now and fairly lazy.

Trying to turn hearts and minds toward universal healthcare, one post at a time.
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#7 of 10 Old 05-01-2009, 11:43 PM
 
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Hmmm...so that's for three people. We spend just a bit over $500 a month. That is food only.

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#8 of 10 Old 05-01-2009, 11:50 PM
 
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thanks for posting all that!!!!

Kelly,newly single mom of four wonderful children.

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#9 of 10 Old 05-02-2009, 12:08 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leta View Post
I know my situation doesn't apply to everybody, but lately I've been feeling like people have this impression of me that I spend all day misting cheese mold and grinding wheat, and, truly, I don't. I'm 35 weeks pregnant right now and fairly lazy.
Even more thanks for posting because of that!

I agree that cooking cheaply yet from scratch and yummily (yes I made that word up) does not have to be extremely time-consuming. However there is a learning curve in getting to that point and basically developing techniques and habits that make it go more quickly and easily. I am thinking of both big things like bulk baking pie crusts to freeze, and small things like doing a bit of dinner prep throughout the day instead of doing it all at once. Also buying habits like sourcing the cheapest ingredients.

When you are saving both money and time, you have got it down to a science! I am not there yet but it is good to see it in action.
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#10 of 10 Old 05-02-2009, 12:40 AM
 
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Great, thoughtful, informative, post! Thanks OP
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